Challenge to Atheists 3
Printed below are responses to this challenge. (See part I) I present them as is with no comment. I only use first names, last initial and don't ask for e-mails, I don't release them. I present this page only to induce thought, not as an attack. Send in your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will not post obscenities or proselytizing.
Does becoming an atheist make a person a better human being? I believe so. Atheists must undergo a tremendous amount of thoughtful introspection. Atheism frees the individual of mysticism, superstition, xenophobia, irrational Dogma, and religious prejudice. It also allows the atheist to work more towards improving the quality of life in this world, than to worry more about what might happen in the invisible "next" world.
In comparison, let's look at what can be done in the absence of religion. While most people consider themselves religious, it is interesting to note that most charity work in the U.S. is done by secular, not religious, organizations. Think about the advances science has made in feeding people, in curing disease, in lengthening the human lifespan, in advancing technology, in understanding our world and our universe-deeds (independent of religion) that unquestionably and objectively improve the quality of life for billions of people around the world.
Certainly, most of these advances have been done during the past couple hundred years, during the age of science, reason and hard work, not during the preceding 1,500 years when religion was the dominant force in our lives and science was suppressed. By most every objective and measurable criterion, then, there has been many good works done in the world completely independent of any religion.
Now, let's turn the question around.
Have any drug addicts given up their addictions as a result of discarding religion? While I, as an atheist, have never smoked, used drugs, or drunk alcohol, (like many atheists I know, and unlike most who would characterize themselves as religious), I can tell you as a medical person that drug addiction is more of a medical problem than a morality issue. Have any thieves stopped stealing and started earning an honest living as a result of becoming infidels? One would think from this biased question that one needs religion to be moral, ethical, and free from crime-despite the fact that many codes of morality in the world are secular in origin. But let's look at your assumption.
The 2001 ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) found that 13% of the US population was non-religious. One holding your assumption might expect that 13% or more of the population of US prisons would also be non-religious. Yet the opposite is true. For example, in "The New Criminology," Max D. Schlapp and Edward E. Smith state that the ratio of convicts without religious training is about 1/10th of 1%. Another example is the work by W.T. Root, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, who found that in a survey of 1,916 prisoners, Unitarians, Agnostics, Atheists and Free-Thinkers were absent from penitentiaries, or nearly so. A third example, during a 10 year examination of inmates at Sing-Sing, it was found that of those executed for murder, 65% were Catholic, 26% were Protestants, 6% were Jewish, 2% were Pagan and less than 1/3 of 1% were non-religious. Being non-religious would appear to have an inverse relationship with being a criminal.
Have any abusive husbands stopped beating their wives as a result of abandoning a belief in God? I think the better question is why religious men would be beating their wives in the first place.
Can it even be called a "belief-system"? (After all it is really about a lack of belief - isn't it?) Atheism simply means discarding beliefs in superstition. It doesn't mean anarchy or no belief in any system of morality. In fact, most codes of conduct, codes of ethics, and codes of morality in the world today are not religious-based.
Proving that the Bible is flawed only proves that either the Christian God does not exist or that he has a high tolerance for incompetence and error in his sacred book. True.
Pointing to the performance of the Christian church and other religions over the ages only proves that those organized religions were flawed and perhaps do not actually represent the Creator.
Evolution does not necessarily pre-empt God - he could easily have used that method to produce the life diversity that we see on this earth. The whole idea of evolution is that it is a mechanism that doesn't require supernatural forces. If you're stating that a supernatural force have created a mechanism that doesn't require the supernatural force, it's possible, but an unsupportable contention.
It could easily be argued that life is designed to evolve on its own most of the time and yet be subject to intervention as God desires. If you're going to argue for supernatural intervention, then you have to support it with evidence.
Debunking or criticizing religion is mostly a negative activity. Being free of superstition and irrational fear is hardly negative.
It is a positive effort only when it frees people from a strangle-hold placed on them by too-authoritarian beliefs. Unfortunately, religion also adversely affects the atheist, in the form of misunderstanding, prejudice and hatred.
After the chains have been broken - then what? A void has been created. Is the person really any better off than before? Absolutely. Who wants to live in fear of a vengeful God? Who wants to believe they're unworthy of salvation? Who wants to waste time praying for magic when he can work towards a solution?
Atheism is an incomplete worldview? Only if you have a place in your life for irrational superstition and mysticism.
It does work in many day to day applications because it often does look like there is no God. The question is does God actually not exist or has God just gone off somewhere? Is God there but not intervening? If the concept of God involves one who is either unaware of what's going on (contradicting any supposed omniscience), aware but disinterested in humanity, (contradicting any supposed qualities about "goodness", or one with limited powers who cannot intervene, (contradicting any supposed qualities of omnipotence), then the concept of God, and the belief in Him, becomes more and more meaningless.
Thank you for allowing me to respond.
I won't rehash some of the excellent observations made in previous
responses to your challenge. But I would like to question the relevancy
of the challenge. From my perspective as a atheist, it means nothing
whether or not being an atheist makes me a better person. Being an
atheist means making an uncompromising commitment to the truth.
Even if it were true that believing in
God made one better, atheists would not embrace that belief. Suppose I
were to demonstrate to you that children that believed in Santa Clause
were less "naughty" than those who were agnostic toward Santa. Would you
then command that everyone believe in Santa, or proclaim that Santa must
really exist? I have heard and read of numerous cases of convicts while
in prison converting to Islam, where after they, supposedly, became much
more moral and fulfilled persons.
In my experience atheists are generally moral, upstanding people. I find
nothing lacking in their world view. Those persons who have sudden
religious conversions and embrace a disciplined and moral religious
lifestyle aren't switching from atheism to belief, but rather always
believed even if they weren't committed to their beliefs. In fact, it
seems to be extremely rare for people to switch between atheism and
Atheism has changed my life for the better. I no
longer need to tell people they're doomed to hell. I
can appreciate other mythologies. I understand people
better now that I don't see them as sinners. People
who work with me have remarked again and again how
calm I am now in the face of frustrations. I feel that
the burden to please an unpleaseable god has been
lifted. This has helped me to keep my wife close to
her wayward daughter.
Religion and History
More Things to Ponder
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